Crunch time for Clockwork Orange as Dutch face decisive Euro 2016 qualifiers
Dutch football and the Netherlands national team, as pioneers of Total Football, are famous for flair, fantasia and possession.
Yet, as Clockwork Orange approach their penultimate Euro 2016 qualifying clash against Kazakhstan in somewhat of a conundrum, it is determination and doggedness Danny Blind’s team requires, qualities perhaps not previously assigned to dazzling Dutch sides.
The Netherlands will need to pull this one out of the hat, though qualification to the France finals is firmly out of their hands, with play-off spot-placed Turkey having to drop points before the Dutch can begin to hope.
This is of course entirely possible, with the timing of tussles for the Turks against the Czech Republic and Iceland, both of whom have already stormed to seal their spot in France next summer, ominous.
Although, the Crescent Stars are currently a crucial two points ahead, and showed they have enough spark and star quality not to crumble under pressure, when they sank the Netherlands by three goals with no reply last time out.
Turkey deservedly hold the advantage here, then, and the Dutch must win both of their duels, while ensuring they maintain a healthy goal difference.
There is no room for error for Blind’s boys; one slip, one mistake could cost Clockwork Orange the ignominy of being the first Netherlands team, always so packed full of talent, not to reach a major tournament since 2002, when they missed out on the World Cup in Japan and Korea.
Fingers can be pointed, and have been, at ex-coach Guus Hiddink for tinkering with Louis van Gaal’s successful 2014 World Cup 5-3-2 formation, or at Blind for failing since to rally the group to a single victory.
Yet at some point, the buck has to be passed to players who had previously performed so well in Brazil. There is an obvious lack of balance in the squad, with skipper Arjen Robben injured and fellow veterans Robin van Persie and Wesley Sneijder fading, with youngsters such as Memphis Depay and Georginio Wijnaldum not yet ready to carry the burden.
Though, these are old arguments, first fielded when Clockwork Orange began qualifying poorly, and as most of the Netherlands roster play at an elite level week-in-week-out, especially compared their group rivals, the excuses are wearing a little thin.
Still, one of the prominent old-guard in Van Persie (7/2 wiht Coral to strike last against the Hawks), who now plies his trade on enemy turf for Fenerbahce, believes Turkey will slip-up.
“Don’t ask me why, but I believe Turkey will definitely spill points in their last two games,” said the striker, who could reach a century of caps for Clockwork Orange if he features against the Kazakhs.
“I notice at the club that the Turkish players have hardly any doubts that it will end well for them. But believe me, they will make at least one mistake. It is up to us to win twice. How we do that does not matter.”
The Script looks set for the former Premier League star to save the day but, with Van Persie having struck just four in 12 for his new Turkish club, Blind may do well to field the Netherlands’ leading net threat from qualifying, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, instead. The Schalke hitman (10/3 to score first) has struck four in Group A, including in the reverse versus Kazakhstan, and his cunning could be crucial on the road.
The Dutch, who sit an uncomfortable sit fourth in Pool A with just 10 points from eight games, may have one eye on the threatening final fixture against in-form Czech Republic, but it is this tough trip to landlocked country Kazakhstan which could prove their undoing.